Behind-the-Scenes Anatomy of a Brand Change

DUH!

I’ve written before about name changes (see my blog here about the National Speakers Association changing its name to Platform and then quickly changing it back again), but I’ve never dissected the subtle implications and ramifications of a brand change.

AND, more importantly, I’ve never before shared why I changed from DUH! Marketing to Red Fire Branding. Today’s goal is to help you evaluate when your brand is or isn’t working. Fair Warning: this is a longer blog post than normal.

  • Evaluate the Positives of Your Brand: On my side, there was definitely an upside to the name.
    • Evoked fun and humor – It was 100% fun to give folks my card and get a chuckle
    • Publicity was easy to wrangle – How hard is it to create a fun story out of a marketing misstep?
    • My Content spread like wildfire – Before there was “viral marketing” and social networking, my content was shared via word of mouth and email forwarding
    • Matched my Brand DNA – Yep, I am guilty of laughing and finding the lunacy of today’s marketing tactics
    • Brand Recognition was high – I would get recognized on the road and even at valet parking with folks remembering my stuff.
  • Take a Close Look at the Negatives
    • Trademark was difficult to protect – Even though I had a registered trademark in many categories, patrolling it was expensive. I even sicced my lawyer upon Brandweek because they decided to start a Department of DUH! Marketing column right after they interviewed me! (Question: do I want to create content or pay lawyers to protect my content?)
    • My Content was ripped off endlessly – Before content curation, I would find my exact words in print without attribution in major publications including Business 2.0.
    • DUH was a little sassy….and pejorative – Ooops! Even my son got called into the principal’s office for saying “DUH” back to the teacher
    • Meeting Planners assumed my talks were mean – Without even watching my demo reel, I was dismissed as the next Joan Rivers or Randy Gage of branding.
    • Impossible to get hired by the companies you insulted – AND, here it is: the clincher: if you just have insulted Snapple, do you think they’re gonna hire you for their sales meeting?

The Bottom Line:
Branding is all about how others perceive you; not what you say you are. Regardless of what I meant to convey through DUH, it was a DUH-saster because it negatively impacted my reputation. And, more importantly, it killed my revenue opportunities. If your brand isn’t bringing in the money, sponsors, donors, or clients, it isn’t working!

Share your thoughts, comments, and insights in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of Sarita Maybin
8 Comments
  1. Liz, what a great lesson on branding! Not only did you give up a powerful and recognizable brand because its power wasn’t always positive, but you talked about it as a lesson for us. Now THAT’s value consulting, and companies should hire you for that openness to tell it like it is, even when it (maybe) hurts. Great job!

  2. Gene, thank you! I am glad that I was able to share some key key learning.

  3. Liz…Interesting and accurate introspective on the transition from DUH! Marketing to Red Fire Branding. Sometimes it takes courage to take a closer look at ourselves. Your assessment and decision to change makes perfect sense…good job!

  4. I like to say that “fish don’t see water.” Sometimes, you just can’t see the issues. Hence, the value of hindsight and a coach!

    Thanks Jeff for the comments.

  5. Liz, another great post!
    Your rationale for renaming your brand makes perfect sense.
    I’d say that your transition from one brand name to another was eased by the fact that while your business brand name changed, your brand’s primary asset — you — remained steady at the helm. Put differently, your personal brand is the major visible and trusted asset of your business brand, and your personal brand seamlessly transferred from one brand name to another. Therefore, your brand’s following wasn’t confused or disturbed.
    Before changing major brand identifying elements, brand owners need to assess which assets (name, logo, color scheme, flagship product, secret recipe, even signature scent) have high levels of awareness and affection. Those are the assets to hang onto or to move very, very carefully to adjust. The example I use in the new edition of Branding For Dummies (it’ll be out in December) is Gap, which failed to realize how much people knew, loved and felt ownership of the long-standing logo, which reappeared — thanks to customer backlash — within days of when a new logo was unveiled.
    I know I’ll quote your name change as a case study. Thanks for sharing it!

  6. Thanks, Barb for pointing out that my personal brand was consistent throughout both brand names making it easier than many to switch. I also like your Gap example. It’s a good case study too.

  7. Thank you for sharing what really happened with DUH! Anyone can talk about their successes, but it takes a true leader (and teacher) to share vulnerabilities.

    Your willingness to share your own DUH! marketing analysis about DUH! adds more of that human touch about you that I’ve come to know, respect and love.

  8. I appreciate your sweet comments, Holly. It was Sarita Maybin who took the photo of DUH! and then thought of me which made me realize that I had never really shared WHY the brand name didn’t work for me.

    Hope it helps others too.

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